With the use by the Township of the PILOT program to attract development to Verona, the Board of Education’s budget is greatly impacted. The Town Council should provide the school board with an equitable share of the PILOT funds to cover the projected increase in enrollment brought about by the developments.
I will also look closely at some of our programs to see if there are ways to streamline the budget without impacting the quality of education, and some that may actually improve programs.
As a parent of a student with special needs and a Board member of Children Having Individual Learning Difference (C.H.I.L.D.) I understand the difficulties faced by parents and students in the school district who have special needs. There are students who are struggling in school that may not be provided with access to necessary specialized instruction or supports – even when those supports are available in their school. We are sending at least 31 students to out of district schools, at great expense to the District, to be appropriately educated. We should look at what programs we are sending student to and see if we can develop programs that would meet their needs in district. This would not only allow them to be educated with their peers, but could save money, or even be revenue generating if we can attract students from neighboring districts.
At the core of any school system should be the students. They will be mine primary focus when making any decision that is put before me. Verona does an excellent job of educating the majority of our students. However, there are areas where we could improve.
There is a lack of any meaningful gifted and talented program in our schools. Providing extra work or harder problems is not the solution. We should have a program in each elementary school where students who are identified as gifted can be appropriately supported and encouraged. This support should continue throughout the middle and high schools so we do not lose kids due to boredom and disinterest.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Each year Verona becomes more diverse. Diversity is not just race, ethnicity, religion, but disabilities, place of birth, and worldview. We have just started down the path of examining how our students, staff, teachers, and community are impacted by the internal and external forces of discrimination, in all its forms. The report by Grand River Solutions had a variety of recommendations. Some are relatively easy to implement and others will take time. I would advocate continuing to work with members of the school and community to chose the recommendations we as a community wish to implement and develop plans to do so.
Good, well-run schools benefit everyone because they help increase the overall value of our houses and property. A Board of Education is charged with oversight of the school district. This includes ensuring that the correct processes and procedures are utilized to run meetings and approve resolutions. A well-run school district benefits everyone- students, staff, and the community. It allows for business to be conducted in an organized and open fashion, and provides clarity into the process. Ensuring that the procedures put in place by the State are adhered to, will allow benefit everyone.
I believe in open public discussions as much as possible. I have already pushed the BOE on more than one occasion to have more discussions in public and to adhere not just to the letter of the Open Public Meetings Act but to the spirit of the law. This would include notifying the public of the type of discussion that is scheduled to occur in closed session and providing minutes of those closed session meetings when appropriate. I would also advocate for the inclusion of community members as a part of some of the Board committees, where permissible. As we learned during COVID we have very engaged, intelligent, and passionate members of our community.